Mostly Anecdotal: Stories – Book and Contest
INTERESTING STUFF – 18 February 2017

Elders, Stress and the U.S. Government

There is a lot to do today so let's start with the winners of the drawing for Norm Jenson's book, Mostly Anecdotal: Stories that we told you about on Wednesday. May I have a drum roll please.

And the winners are:

Estelle D

Congratulations to you all. What the three of you need to do now, is email me (use the "Contact" link at the top of the page and send me your snailmail address. I'll then get the books off to you forthwith.


Only two more days until this TGB donation drive for 2017 is done. You can read the details of what it is about on Monday's post.

If you have already donated, thank you – it is much appreciated. If you haven't done so and would like to help support the work that goes on here, click the button below. If not, which is perfectly fine, scroll down for today's post.

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When even The American Institute of Stress can't define what stress is, you know you're in trouble:

“Stress is not a useful term for scientists because it is such a highly subjective phenomenon that it defies definition.”

[Eight opaque paragraphs later:]

“While everyone can’t agree on a definition of stress, all of our experimental and clinical research confirms that the sense of having little or no control is always distressful – and that’s what stress is all about.”

Uh-huh - stress is distressful. That is what is called a tautology – defining a word by using the same word.

MedicineNet is a bit more helpful: “a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension” but a note on a different page of that website is better:

”Due to the overabundance of stress in our modern lives, we usually think of stress as a negative experience, but from a biological point of view, stress can be a neutral, negative, or positive experience.”

If I've ever read anything about neutral or positive stress, I don't recall, but it confirms for me that sometimes stress is a good thing. In my career, for example, deadlines had me gritting my teeth but without them I would probably never have finished editing a story or video nor would my work have been as good.

Except for that one Medicinenet reference, all I ever see is how dangerous stress is. Here is one more definition of negative stress, from an article at Medical News Today, that makes the most sense to me:

”We generally use the word 'stress' when we feel that everything seems to have become too much - we are overloaded and wonder whether we really can cope with the pressures placed upon us.”

What's important about that definition and my intro to it (“makes most sense to me”) is that stress – whatever it is or isn't – is individual. You might sail through a situation that leaves me a puddle on the floor. Or vice versa.

According to my cursory reading on stress, it is brought about in elders by such factors as financial hardship, physical decline, healthcare changes, loneliness and there are many, many other “smaller” stressers. Whatever the cause, the effects on our bodies are profound and dangerous to our health. Here is a partial list of stress responses:

Feeling of insecurity
Heart disease
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Lower immunity against diseases
Muscular aches
Nail biting
Nervous twitches
Pins and needles
Problem concentrating
Sleeping difficulties

What brought up all this rumination on stress is that since election day, I've felt more worry, fear, anxiety and most of all, helplessness, than I can ever recall. Every day, all the time – and it is not related only to the president. It's the Republican Congress too.

Voucherize Medicare? Privatize Social Security? Repeal Obamacare? And those are almost incidental when you hear this from a White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller:

Let's repeat the most important part of his statement:

“...the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial, and will not be questioned."

Does that not chill you to the bone? And what can I, personally, possibly do to counter this most recent, terrifying turn toward autocratic rule in the United States?

Not much that I can see but it eats at me every day. Sometimes I can barely breathe and with each new move toward the right by the government, I am more frightened – read: stressed – and I'm not alone.

Here are some of the suggestions from the medical community for dealing with stress:

Good nutrition
Relaxation techniques
Cut down on caffeine
Talk with friends
Keep breathing

It is one thing if the sources of stress are from our own lives. In that case, those suggestions are useful. But what if the source of stress is your government? And what if the people comparing the Trump government to 1930's Germany are not hysterics?

So much for a quiet, fulfilling retirement. Breathe, everyone. Breathe.


Yes, the Twitter in Chief and the Republicans in Congress and Stephen Miller are horrid, worrisome, and stress inducing but finding out that relatives, friends, and neighbors are just fine with it is almost more than I can bear. Not all, but enough to make me despair. (And don't tell me to find common ground with them, there is no common ground. They are not interested in anything other than their own Fox News/Breitbart alternate reality.)😫

SCROTUS (So-Called Ruler of the U.S.) and Gang have changed just about all the assumptions and assurances that our country will always work to defend and enhance the best interest of its citizens. Many of our safeguards and protections are being reconsidered for their relevance and use, and will face reduction or elimination if they don't make the rich and powerful more so. Stress, anyone?

Yes! I feel stress every time I read or listen to any news. I am especially worried about the hate that our deplorable leader has made acceptable. My grandson is adopted and is African-American and I am very afraid of what may happen to him in the future with the present already dangerous.

Even in Canada the stress is evident as our PM rolls over on the pipeline issues. Economy!

I felt my heart pounding today when our provincial premier called a press conference on health care.

It was to announce a new hospital BUT I'd be dead without healthcare and meds. And that is a real fear now with the UK looking towards adopting the pay-for US model.

It's affecting us all. Stress.

Re: Stress. You have so accurately and vividly described what I have been feeling; both pre- and post-election. I too have this feeling that I can't do enough and/or don't quite know what will be effective in dealing with the so-called president and his minions. Like many others who are in the later years of their lives, I am so dismayed, even angry, this is happening. I just want to live long enough to see it go away!! To see our country recover from this fiasco.

Ah yes stress; I know it well. You don't need to define stress. You will know it when you feel it.

Herr Miller with his expressionless face and dispassionate words appears to be a direct throw-back to the Nazi regime of not so long ago. Many of us in our age group remember those days all too well.

I guess that's where "nevertheless, she resisted" comes in...That's one heck of a rallying cry.

The comment on medical website you looked at about stress being potentially 'positive or neutral' as well as negative, was based on the fact that when anything big happens to us at an emotional level or causes us to feel tense, the physiological effect in the body is exactly the same, regardless of the nature of the stressful event. It is only our minds that interpret the event as being positive or negative, exciting or scary, happy or sad...or whatever. There are well known scientific experiments to prove this.

That's why, when Holmes and Rahe developed their famous stress scale in 1967 they rated getting married as being more stressful than getting fired from work and a vacation or Christmas both as more stressful than getting a traffic ticket.

Re: Elders and Stress - I've noticed something interesting lately - my youngest sister, age 60, said that all of a sudden, she's been flooded with Facebook "friend" requests from old high school classmates. Now - flooded is a relative term, since our graduating classes consisted of approximately 30 people, and several of them were distant cousins. I suggested that the the combination of age and the unease that everyone is feeling now leads us to the need to connect with our personal histories, which are unchanging and reliable. Last night the middle sister told me her high school boyfriend called her yesterday - he's been divorced for 2 years, she's been widowed for 10. I have recently been contacted by a person from my distant past, and have myself attempted to make contact with a very significant, though not necessarily positive, individual from my young adulthood. This can't be just coincidence. Is anyone else having any similar experiences?

Yes Ronni--- how awful to end our lives in such stress.

Also---What Florence said---There is nothing you can say to them--

And--How can so many people NOT be stressed----but believe and follow along.

Alternative facts do not seem to be a problem for the republican followers

And SCROTUS constantly telling everyone the press lies and you can only believe his version.

Can you tell I am stressed??

PS - congratulations to the three winners of Norm Jenson's book, Mostly Anecdotal: Stories I just wandered off to order my copy from Amazon.

My immediate reaction to Stephen Miller was that he looked and sounded exactly like some officious little Nazi officer speaking of Der Führer. All he lacked was the uniform. That was Sunday night, and I still replay the video occasionally to see if he's really as horrid as I remember. (Yep, he is.)

That my very intelligent son whom I adore might have actually voted for this administration is almost more than I can bear.

Wonderful Wendl

What a challenge to come up with something suitable.
I'd make one small change to reflect his history.

Seriously churlish ringleader of the unscrupulous male

I'm glad that others see Stephen Miller as the face of modern Nazism, as I do. He's worse than the 2 eldest tRump sons. His eyes are even more vacant, cold and lizard-like than theirs. I hope he says/does something to be sent packing--SOON.

I never anticipated being stressed out by the destructive actions of my government late in life.

Jackie Davis, my long-time college-classmate connections on FaceBook become more and more important to me all the time -- and I mean long-time, since I graduated in 1960! One day this week I had lunch in NYC with one of them after a follow-up visit with the neurosurgeon who recently did my back surgery. To hug, laugh and commiserate with old friends is one of the true pleasures of old age. What made the day even better was that my 50-year-old daughter was with us.

I, too, hope I live long enough to see the end of the DT madness, but I'm worried that my children and grandchildren will have to suffer through its aftereffects. In the meanwhile, I keep breathing deeply and working on my novel.

A word about Stephen Miller--he didn't strike me as sounding dispassionate at all--he shouted. It was the cold, automaton-like face in contrast with the loud pronouncements that made him so scary. (Is Bannon--arguably running our country--going to manage to avoid public appearances/statements altogether? And what do you suppose HE sounds like when laying out his worldview?)

Just for fun, here are the stress symptoms from your list that I'm currently dealing with: Anger, anxiety, depression, fatigue, irritability, nail biting, nervous twitch. I have some of the others too, but I can't blame them on Trump. The tic in my eyelid is definitely just since the last couple of weeks.

I can only hope that this train wreck simply cannot continue for even a year at the rate it's going.

Every day I go through the same struggle, telling myself not to check the news, then checking it anyway out of fear that something even more horrible happened overnight. I'm always disappointed by what I read. And then I spend the rest of the day bouncing back and forth from a stunned trance to an anger so palpable that I feel like vomiting. And as someone said above, what's hardest to stomach is knowing that so many of my friends and family still think he's doing a "great" job. It's heartbreaking.

I got chills when I watched Stephen Miller make that unAmerican declaration that the power of the president "will not be questioned." Who the hell do these people think they are anyway? I'm more discouraged than I've ever been in my 55 years on this planet, but I have not (yet) lost the will to fight them.

What occurred to me today is not just the fear about the future of or country and the world, but that kids today may begin to believe that this is normal behavior and government procedure. Frightening!

I agree with commenters: I very soon dismissed the idea of talking to those who consider this presidency normal and legitimate and productive. What I do and find useful is getting together with like-minded friends and ranting. It relieves the stress somewhat. Time Goes By is useful in this way: it is simply a relief to read that others are also angry, scared and persisting.


Every day I make the promise to myself that I will limit the number of political posts I plant on FaceBook. And every day I break that promise because friends and relatives are posting items that I find relevant and important enough to make sure that everyone sees them. And refuting some of the posts by Republicans that I simply can't allow to sit there and tell people that this or that is okayed by the Constitution (when they're not).

I'd like to be able to shut them all off, if only for one day. I erroneously thought that the number of posts I'd receive after the election was over would decrease, but instead the number has increased exponentially. I find myself spending hours just reading FB posts and answering (because to ignore them would be impolite) and signing petitions. I haven't gotten to the point of making phone calls to my reps and Senators, but I suppose that I will eventually. I try to limit the amount of time I allocate to this activity, but it seems that I spend half the day until I finally say, "Enough!" and delete everything from my email.

My definition of stress is the feeling that I must be doing something to try to change the political situation, but nothing I do feels productive. And there ain't nothin' I can do about it.

For any of you who criticized Obama, wouldn't you rather have him than what we currently have? Be truthful now.

I'm afraid democracy and a free press is something no country can attain forever. It is just not in man's nature. We saw it in Germany and we see it in Russia and certainly North Korea and many Mid East countries. Politics is like religion. People will believe what they want even against all evidence to the contrary. Humans value being "in" and part of a crowd far more than truth and critical thinking. This was bound to happen sooner or later, but unfortunately it is now. And yes, Stephen Miller reminded me completely of a little neo Nazi. We are living in dangerous times.

Andrew Sullivan had an interesting take on that twerp Miller: "I feel like I know Stephen Miller, the youthful Montgomery Burns who lectured the lügenpresse last Sunday morning in his charm-free Stakhanovite baritone. I feel like I know him because I used to be a little like him. He’s a classic type: a rather dour right-of-center kid whose conservatism was radicalized by lefties in the educational system. No, I’m not blaming liberals for Miller’s grim fanaticism. I am noting merely that right-of-center students are often mocked, isolated, and anathematized on campus, and their response is often, sadly, a doubling down on whatever it is that progressives hate. Before too long, they start adopting brattish and obnoxious positions — just to tick off their SJW peers and teachers. After a while, you’re not so much arguing for conservatism as against leftism, and eventually the issues fade and only the hate remains."

Of course no decent president would have such a person around -- or Bannon who looks to be a collapsarian -- someone who thinks humans have blown it and going out in apocalyptic glory is the best we can do.

I'm still into resistance. There is much to live for and to leave after we go.

I've joined a small group of like-minded women, and some of their husbands, who began as Pantsuit Nation. We do often feel overwhelmed and burnt out. But "still she persisted" and persist we must. Each day brings a new avalanche of unbelievable and treasonous revelations and actions.

I'm 73, and find it incredible that at my age I'm refighting the old battles for women. won under the old rules That we are fighting for our way of life and our very Constitution. The "con con" movement (Constitutional Convention) being promoted by ALEC (a right-wing Koch funded group) will open the Constitution to revision in every Article and Amendment. There will be no elected representative working on this. Our democracy is in serious danger.

We are very stressed. We are exhausted. But we owe our allegiance to our kids and grandkids to persist.

I just read through all of the comments from today. Are there no men out there? This is not a women's issue. We had men marching with us. We have men attending meetings. They are committed but maybe not as scared as women.

I ask: are there any stressed men out there?

Seeing 31 year old Stephen Miller's face on the screen as I scrolled down in this post just now elevated my stress level significantly. I've seen him on several things now, and heard his cold, harsh words. He is like the Ghost of Christmas Future, and I think I might fear him the most, although just days ago I could not have imagined someone, especially as young as he is, matching and surpassing Trump and Steve Bannon for instilling fear.

I have heard many people, young, middle-aged, and older report so many unpleasant feelings since the election, and especially since the inauguration -- fear, anxiety, flatness of emotion, anger, depression -- and I am concerned that if these continue for too long, they may lead to increased health breakdowns, both physical and mental. States with relaxed marijuana laws may be the most fortunate these days.

I am very thankful for the advent of spring and the return of more hours of daylight and sun. I'm not sure that we could have taken much more darkness and cold along with everything going on. More than ever, I find myself looking forward to Interesting Stuff Saturdays for some lighter fare. It seems to be getting harder to find humor from anything other than situations that are, in actuality, depressing and life and health threatening these days.

I think Trump's bringing out the worst in all of us. I loathe anyone stupid enough to vote for him,

I just now got to this/these posts, and all I can say is ditto ditto ditto. I said to a friend today, this gang of a cabinet, these agendas are little less than a massacre on all of us. Steven Miller--I saw him for the first time on Meet the Press, Sunday. Arrgggh!

Breathe, yes, great advice. I forget when I'm all worked up by the US (and UK) news. It invades my dreams and I'm sick and heavy in my heart and stomach. Here in sunny Spain I'm not even in the thick of it.....but I feel it for you all on the sharp end.

I was brought up short recently when I went for deep tissue massage. My whole body was locked off due to tension, especially in the head and neck. What a painful session. Must remember to breathe and meditate but, oh, that No. 45 and the toadies in Whitehall get my goat.

Yes, I too am breathing, meditating, gathering now and then with friends, or laughing on the phone with friends...............and for the first time in my life, I awaken at night with thoughts and visuals of Scrotus and friends. And YES, where the hell are the MEN here????

First, if you are concerned write your congressman or woman, again and again. Give each and everyone your views whether or not you are of the same party. Send the message by email or telephone. If you are using a computer, you will find all the information you need for these contacts. (Smail mail sits in mail rooms because it needs to be checked for "white powder", so it is too slow). Please, do not "hate" Trump supporters. Each one was hearing a different message and each one cannot be blamed for thinking his or her point of view is all that mattered. Just talk the talk and walk the walk. Write your House and Senate members and tell others what you have done. It will get T. supporters thinking even if you don't change their minds right away. Eventually, the truth will prevail. Good luck. Oh, action will help drive away stress. Rose Kennelly

The following is a excerpt from an article in the Guardian from February 9th. I offer it as a bit of optimism and to suggest why our constant pressure on Congress and from the media will have an impact. If it is correct that the Trump fans are a "stay-at-home electorate of reality tv fans" [who think they have "won"] then it will be the anti-Trumpers who will be making all the noise with our Congressmen.

So keep it up!

It may be working...There was a letter to the editor in the local big city paper this morning complaining how our 2 senators have let their voiceamail boxes fill up and have scheduled no town hall meetings. One is ducking constituents because she is afraid "screaming matches" will break out. What cowardice!

From the Guardian-
"Whether or not the current stay on Trump’s US entry ban stands, this early confrontation with the checks and balances built into the US constitution reveals a basic ignorance and superficiality in his attempt to impose a “strong man” rule on America. The founding fathers put these checks and balances in place to prevent the rise of a tyrant. Resisting tyranny was the central premise of the republican (with a small r) tradition of political theory on which the 18th-century American revolution rests.

In our horror, we are missing the point that perhaps Obama has grasped. The Trump “movement” – as Trump likes to call it – died on inauguration day. That row about the numbers of people in Washington’s National Mall? It mattered. For without a mass movement that makes itself physically – and dangerously – felt on the streets, there can be no future for Mussolini-style bluster.

Trump has a stay-at-home electorate of reality tv fans. It is the left who are on the streets. It is his enemies who have the youth, anger and numbers.

Obama is smiling because he knows this is going to be the most ineffectual dictatorship ever – and soon we won’t be worrying about Trump. We will be deriding his incompetence".

Stress is real. Antidotes many mention are self care (breath, mindfulness practice) and to communicate and feel connected with like minded people. Another not mentioned is to take some action that gives you a sense of taking back your power. There are many groups on the web that offer opportunities to take positive citizenship actions, jointly with people in your community and across the nation., Credo, Dailykos, I've chosen to get connected to a local group taking local actions supporting dignity, freedom of choice and religious belief and the values I want my government to support at this critical time in our history. Many drops of water can shift the river. This relieves my daily stress and makes this time more tolerable.

Re: Stress

I am 90 years old and lead a quiet life. Most of the stress of "being out in the real world" is gone. I find myself reading deliberately-ingesting every word and getting "mind pictures" of what I am reading. Also, I still marvel at the the computer--an amazing technology that we are so lucky to have. Without it, I can't imagine how my life would be, since health issues have made it difficult to go out of my home. And speaking of the internet, I can't tell you how much I enjoy your many wonderful articles. Your web site is my favorite. Please stay in good health and continue writing. Thank you for bringing joy to me.

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